Mary Garrett family papers
Held at: Bryn Mawr College [Contact Us]Bryn Mawr College Library, 101 N. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr 19010
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Overview and metadata sections
Mary Elizabeth Garrett (1854-1915), a wealthy philanthropist, championed women's education by founding the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland, helping to finance Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and ensuring that women were admitted into the John Hopkins University School of Medicine. She was an active suffragist and financially helped that cause until her death in 1915.
Mary Elizabeth Garrett was born on March 5, 1854 in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of John Work and Rachel Anne Harrison Garrett. John Work Garrett was an active philanthropist, an advisor to President Lincoln during the Civil War, and the president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Two of Mary's three brothers, Robert and Thomas Harrison, became involved with the family business and Mary, even as a child was often present at [her father's] business interviews," ( Bryn Mawr Alumnae Quarterly, page 126) . Despite her privileged upbringing, her working as her father's assistant, and her "clarity of vision, effective strategy, perseverance and, not least, seizing opportunities at the right time," (Sanders), Mary Garrett's lack of an education and her gender resulted in fewer opportunities. These restrictions, however, did not stop Garrett from working towards other women gaining access to opportunities. After her father's death in 1884, Garrett used her inheritance to fund her ambitions.
Mary Elizabeth Garrett was close friends with M. Carey Thomas, Mamie Gwinn, Elizabeth "Bessie" King and Julia Rogers. These women were raised in prosperous homes and had progressive and educated parents. In fact, all their fathers (except Julia Rogers') served as trustees for John Hopkins University or Hospital. Garrett and her friends, as a group, worked to promote women's education during the late 19th century. They christened themselves the "Friday evening," and met on a regular basis, and these meetings "provided an incubation for ideas on how to help women achieve independence and autonomy," (Sanders). Their first concrete effort was the establishment of the Bryn Mawr School for Girls in Baltimore, Maryland. This school was designed to "become the first college preparatory school for girls in the United States emphasizing traditional 'male' subjects such as mathematics, sciences, modern and classical education, and physical education," (Sanders). Indeed, according to the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Quarterly, the standard for graduating from the Bryn Mawr School was "successful passing of the Bryn Mawr College entrance examinations," (page 127). From 1885 to 1890, Garrett oversaw the financial workings of the School.
After the Bryn Mawr School for Girls was firmly established, the "Friday Evening" created the Women's Medical School Fund Committee in order to raise money for the endowment of the Johns Hopkins University medical school. The "Friday Evening," however raised money with conditions: "the trustees would agree to admit women on the same terms as men,' (Sanders). As a result, medical education for women became a focus that expanded beyond these five women. John Hopkins University School of Medicine was founded in 1893.
In 1893, Garrett became involved in the finances and education of Bryn Mawr College. When M. Carey Thomas began serving as President, Garrett promised an annual gift of $10,000, and donated up to $400,000 to the College for renovations and campus improvements. Her financial abilities did not go unnoticed, and in 1906, Garrett was elected to serve as Director-at-Large of the Board of Directors of the Trustees at Bryn Mawr College.
Garrett also became involved in the Suffrage Movement on a national level from 1906 to 1914, serving as a fundraiser for the National American Woman Suffrage Association and as the finance chair of the National College Equal Suffrage League.
Garrett died in 1915 from Leukemia at the age of 62 at Bryn Mawr where she lived with M. Carey Thomas. According to Nancy McCall, archivist at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Garrett "used her fortune to provide business and educational opportunities for women in all walks of life [and was] particularly interested in helping women to become self-sufficient and financially independent," (McCall).
Mary Elizabeth Garrett's estate provided much of the financial means for her philanthropy. Learning from her family's business practices and using her considerable natural aptitude, Mary Garrett became a formidable business woman. Mary Garrett's father, John Work Garrett, was born July 31, 1820 and attended Lafayette College from 1834 to 1835. He worked for his father at Robert Garrett & Company, but saw "opportunities in the development of transportation," ( Baltimore: Its History and Its People, page 458). In 1858, John Work Garrett was made president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, serving in that capacity until his death in 1884. John Work Garrett was "one of the most influential men in the country," (Sander) an active philanthropist, and an advisor to President Lincoln during the Civil War. During the Civil War, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad transported both troops and supplies, and Garrett's fortune helped finance and support the Union efforts. He served as a trustee for both the Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Hospital. John Work Garrett married Rachel Ann Harrison (1823-1883) and they were the parents of Robert, Thomas Harrison, Mary, and Henry. Rachel Garrett died in 1883 after a carriage accident, and John Work Garrett died in 1884, leaving a vast fortune to his children.
Mary's brother, Robert Garrett, born April 9, 1847, was educated at the Dahl School in Baltimore, the Friends' School in Providence, Rhode Island, and Princeton University, from which he graduated in 1867. According to Baltimore: Its History and Its People, before entering college, at the age of sixteen, Robert "ran away from home to join General Robert E. Lee's forces in the Valley of Virginia, [but was] persuaded by his father to return to Baltimore and go … to Princeton," (page 461). Robert Garrett worked at Robert Garrett and Sons, served as president of the Valley Railroad of Virginia from 1871 to 1875, and then began serving the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, becoming first vice-president in 1881. When his father died in 1884, he became president. Robert's health began deteriorating in 1886, just two years after becoming president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and he retired in October 1887. He died in 1896.
Thomas Harrison Garret was born February 11, 1849 and was educated in private schools of Baltimore and Princeton University. He became involved at age nineteen with Robert Garrett and Sons, and in 1871, "was placed in charge of the banking interests," ( Baltimore: Its History and Its People, page 463). He married Alice Whitridge and they were the parents of John W., Horatio W., and Robert. Thomas Harrison Garrett died June 7, 1888 as a result of a boating accident on the Chesapeake Bay.
When Robert Garrett died in 1896, he left no will and his estate of six million dollars was divided between his widow, Mary Sloan Frick Garrett, Mary Elizabeth Garrett and the children of Thomas Harrison Garrett.
Bryn Mawr Alumnae Quarterly. "The Mary E. Garrett Memorial Fund," January 1917.
McCall, Nancy. "Hopkins History: Mary Elizabeth Garrett, Founding Benefactor of the School of Medicine," Johns Hopkins University Gazette. Volume 30, Number 21, February 12, 2001
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "Mary Garrett: A Life on Her Own Terms." http://www.medicalarchives.jhmi.edu/garrett/biography.htm#forging (accessed October 11, 2010).
Various Contributors. Baltimore: Its History and Its People, Volume II. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1912.
The Mary Garrett family papers house the business and family papers of the Garrett family. This collection, which dates from 1874-1915, consists of correspondence, diaries, notebooks, biographical information, and business and estate records.
Mary Garrett's collection is arranged into five series: "Series I: Correspondence," "Series II: Diaries and assorted notebooks," "Series III: Family material," "Series IV: Women's suffrage," and "Series V: Business and estate records."
The bulk of the collection is "Series I: Correspondence" which ranges in date from 1874 to 1915. The letters are grouped first by recipient, and then chronologically within each recipient's material. Most of the series consists of letters to and from Mary Garrett. In most cases, folders contain letters from many authors. Letters to Mary Garrett are largely personal, however, there are some business letters included in the "miscellaneous" folders. These letters discuss closing an apartment in New York in April 1899, many letters thanking Mary Garrett for her help or thoughts, and letters requesting her involvement in organizations and requesting donations, to name just a few topics. Many of these letters were written to Mary Garrett while she was abroad in Paris. Of interest in this series are notes, possibly taken by Mary Garrett, regarding women who she was probably meeting. These notes include the woman's name, address, and activities and involvement. Mary Garrett communicated regularly with her physician, William Halstead, and in 1914, she was hospitalized at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which was followed by numerous letters regarding her recovery. There appears to be very little in these letters regarding Bryn Mawr College or her work with suffrage.
Also included in "Series I: Correspondence" are letters to John Work Garrett. These letters are largely business, in nature, and discuss politics, to a small degree; railroads; Johns Hopkins University; and finance. Prevalent authors include E. Keyser, and John Garrett's sons, Robert and Thomas Harrison Garrett. Mary Garrett's mother, Rachel Ann Harrison Garrett, is also represented in this series. The bulk of the letters to Rachel Garrett are from her daughter Mary. These letters appear to focus largely on family and relationships. Rachel Garrett also received letters from her sons, Robert and Thomas Harrison Garrett; L.C. Russell; Julia R. Rogers; Mary Potter; Alice Warder Garrett; and her sisters, Rebecca and F. C. Harrison. The majority of these letters appear to be personal in nature.
"Series II: Diaries and assorted notebooks" includes address books, calendars, medical information, and other personal notes. Many of the diaries are not complete and contain little information. This series is arranged chronologically.
"Series III: Family material" contains genealogical information, obituaries, especially relating to Robert Garrett's death, and John Garrett's articles and notes. These articles and notes include laws and speeches; a few of which relate to the Civil War. This series also contains biographical and autobiographical material on Mary Garrett and contains one photograph.
"Series IV: Women's suffrage" contains an M. Carey Thomas speech at the 38th annual convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in Baltimore, Maryland in February 1906, and articles related to women's suffrage.
"Series V: Business and estate records" includes a register of Mary Garrett's jewelry, information on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and Robert Garrett and Sons Co. including assorted Garrett estate records. This series was arranged only to the series level. For more information please contact the Archivist.
Researchers interested in the Garrett family, the advancement of women's education, Bryn Mawr College, and women's suffrage will find this collection to be of value. The many letters to and from Mary Garrett give a picture of her life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, her involvement in the women's suffrage movement, and advances of education for women in Philadelphia and Baltimore.
The processing of this collection was made possible through a training session "Archives for Non-Archivists" hosted by the Council on Library and Information Resources.
This collection is minimally processed to the folder level and series level.
- Garrett, Robert
- Garrett, Thomas Harrison
- Garrett, Rachel Anne Harrison
- Garrett, John W. (John Work), 1820-1884
- Thomas, M. Carey (Martha Carey), 1857-1935
- National American Woman Suffrage Association
- Robert Garrett & Sons
- Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company
- Bryn Mawr College
- Finding Aid Author
- Sally Cubitt, Debbie Houk, Carly Statz, Melissa Torquato
- Finding Aid Date
- 2010 October 29
- The processing of this collection was made possible through a training session "Archives for Non-Archivists" hosted by the Council on Library and Information Resources.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Archives with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.